Winter has a long way to go but things are starting to heat up in the clubs and concert halls. Here are our picks for the best upcoming music in February and March (so far):
Feb. 2, The Deryck Tines Gospel Choir: Alphabet City, North Side
This musical feast will feature traditional gospel songs, spirituals and hymns from the last 100 years of the black experience in America, along with music from the group’s recent release “We Shall Overcome Someday.”
Feb. 6, Leyla McCalla: Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland
McCalla is an alumnus of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who brought attention to an incredibly rich history of African-American string bands, mostly (unjustly) forgotten. Her own records, like “The Capitalist Blues” and “Vari-Colored Songs” explore her Haitian Creole roots and Louisiana/New Orleans musical traditions, and include tributes to heroes like Langston Hughes.
Feb. 7-8, The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh presents “Night 1 & 2: Satan’s Fall,” composed by Stewart Copeland: Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks
“Satan’s Fall” sounds like a Gateway Clipper trip with Slayer down the River Styxx, but it’s actually a world premiere of Stewart Copeland’s (best known as drummer for The Police) take on John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” sung by the massed voices of Pittsburgh’s Mendelssohn Choir.
Feb. 8, Andre Costello and the Cool Minors: Buhl Planetarium at Carnegie Science Center, North Side
You may not have known it until now, but you’ve always wanted to see a band rock a planetarium. Pittsburgh’s Andre Costello and the Cool Minors will attempt just that. Yes, there will be lasers.
Feb. 9, John Doe: Club Cafe, Kristin Hersh, Grant-Lee Phillips: Club Cafe, South Side
Few of the original punk rockers, class of ‘77, have aged as gracefully as John Doe. His band X was as wild as anything to emerge from the war zone of 1970s L.A., but they always made clear their connections to the rawness of early rock and roll and country music, skill sets that come in handy in his solo work. This show, entitled “The Exile Follies,” also features the great Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses and Grant-Lee Phillips of Grant Lee Buffalo.
Feb. 13, Lower Dens: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale
Lower Dens’ dreamy, shimmering waves of guitars and synthesizers are at once a nostalgic embrace of the past (the ‘80s, mostly), and a fearless gaze into a utopian future, in all of its inevitable heartbreak.
Feb. 14, Durand Jones & The Indications, Y La Bamba: Spirit, Lawrenceville
A great double bill with two completely different sounding bands. First, the Curtis Mayfield/Impressions-styled throwback soul of Durand Jones & The Indications, who are such students of the genre that their guitarist actually does research for The Numero Group, whose “Eccentric Soul” albums are beloved by record nerds everywhere. Then there’s Y La Bamba, a strikingly original, formally-inventive Mexico-via-Portland indie folk band, that doesn’t sound like anyone else.
Feb. 15, Elena Colombi, Malzof: Hot Mass, Strip District
Amsterdam-based DJ and radio host Elena Colombi is known for playing music that otherwise slips between the cracks of established musical genres, from extended synth jams to industrial post-punk.
Feb. 15, Joshua Redman: August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Downtown
One of the most brilliant and original voices in contemporary jazz, tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman has been nominated for two Grammys, and is known for his fierce long-form improvisational fire.
Feb. 21-23, Hi-Tide Winter Holiday with The Surfrajettes, The Concussions, Televisionaries, Slowey & The Boats, various venues
Headlined by the psychedelic surf instrumentals of Toronto’s The Surfrajettes, this is a showcase for Hi-Tide Recordings bands and friends — specializing in “surf, lounge and exotic sounds”– as well as for the impressive This Is Red space (a former church in Munhall), the site of the main tropical tiki-themed event on Feb. 22. There’s a pre-party at Pittsburgh’s own tiki bar Hidden Harbor on Feb. 21, with DJ Hi-Tide and special guests DJ Spike Marble and DJ Devil Bat. Then on Feb. 23, there’s a tiki brunch at Hidden Harbor with Slowey & The Boats. Summertime in February.
Feb. 24, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: First Unitarian Church, Shadyside
A living link to the days when giants walked the earth, percussionist Kahil El’Zabar’s band Ethnic Heritage Ensemble makes modern jazz that is deeply connected to its ancestral, drum-driven African roots. The band tours every February for Black History Month.
Feb. 28-March 1, Beyond 2020 Microtonal Music Festival with Ray-Kallay Duo and MikroEnsemble, Del Sol String Quartet, FretX Guitar Duo: various venues
Microtonal music might sound tiny, but it’s actually quite a broad concept. Though generally associated with Eastern musical traditions, the prospect of a whole other spectrum of notes to play has long intrigued Western musicians and composers. Microtonal music uses altered pitch and tuning systems that diverge from the standard Western twelve-tone scale — it can be found in Indian music, as well as the blues. This three-day festival celebrates microtonal music with some of its top current practitioners, including Finland’s MikroEnsemble — who have developed instruments designed for quarter-tone playing — and the SF-based Del Sol String Quartet.
Feb. 29, RJD2: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale
One of hip-hop’s most low-key, underrated-yet-brilliant beatmakers, RJD2 hails from nearby Columbus and has always made Pittsburgh a key stop on any tour he takes. No word yet on who will step up and spit a few bars, but RJD2’s beats are strong enough to stand up on their own.
Feb. 29, Starship Mantis, Clara Kent, Buffalo Rose: Spirit, Lawrenceville
Billed as their “final show on planet Earth,” Pittsburgh-based interplanetary funkateers Starship Mantis headline this musically diverse blastoff party at Spirit, with introspective soul singer Clara Kent and folk-rockers Buffalo Rose.
March 4, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers: Petersen Events Center, Oakland